Moving Detroit Forward via Milwaukee

By Myrtle Thompson-Curtis and Wayne Curtis,

Feedom Freedom Growers

Michigan Citizen, Sept. 26-Oct. 2, 2010

We were in the delegation of two dozen Detroit growers/farmers who traveled to Milwaukee over the September 10-12 weekend to attend the Good Food {R}evolution" Conference sponsored by Will Allen.

The son of a sharecropper and a former professional basketball player, Will is now a farmer, not just any farmer but the principal farmer and CEO of Grower Power Inc.

There are many things to learn from and about this man who is behind the Milwaukee urban agriculture movement. Through Growing Power Inc. Will Allen maintains a sustainable farm and community center which ensures that all Milwaukee residents, regardless of their economic circumstances, have access to fresh, nutritious food. In 2008 he was awarded the prestigious "Genius" award by the MacArthur Foundation for his work, only the second farmer ever to be so honored. In February 2010 he joined Michelle Obama in launching "Let's Move," her signature program to reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity in America. In May 2010 TIME magazine named him one of the world's 100 most influential people.

The Milwaukee conference attracted at least 1500 participants and assembled a powerful tool box of resources to further the Good Food movement, The "D" was well represented at the conference, and we all had something to bring to the table. As we converged and traded information with folks from as far away as Hawaii, Toronto and Austria, we always kept a grounded focus on how we can continue to grow the good food {r}evolution and build a fresh, healthy, affordable food system. We need to support our local farmers, both to build this local economy, and to restore our spiritual connection to the food that we eat. We have to be more than consumers. .

There was plenty of information to take home and apply, from composting to alternative energy. All phases of growing urban agriculture were covered. We were particularly interested in, and hope to implement back in our community, solar and wind energy as well as vermicomposting, or composting with earthworms.

Recycling also played a very big role during the weekend. At one break-away workshop, Will Allen talked for two hours on the benefits of organic composting. There were recycle bins on every wall for every disposable item, including food scraps.

One particularly encouraging aspect of the conference was the commitment by civic and business leaders to Growing Power and community growing, This is something we want to see in Detroit. For example, Rocky Marcoux, the Commissioner for the Department of City Development, addressed the forum, The role of government, he said, is not to stop these things that are working in Milwaukee, but to allow and encourage people to use their God-given talents to create and expand them.

We were impressed by the ways Will Allen has found to link grassroots and civic leadership so that they support one another, He encouraged us to bridge that gap in Detroit.

IT CAN HAPPEN HERE. Milwaukee doesn't seem that different a town except it appears that they've had a longer time to deal with the loss of industrial jobs. One thing we noticed, in contrast to Detroit, is the absence of gas stations. Not having gas stations on every corner cuts down on the amount of junk food that kids and adults consume in mass proportions all day long. Fewer gas stations would force people to spend their food dollars more wisely. Another contrast was the early closing of stores, keeping down late night crime and concentrating folks in the comfortable well-lit downtown area where it feels safe to walk.

Detroit has countless citizens who love our city and are working together to create alternatives like these at this very moment. We are ready to support one another to build up a local economy, food justice policy, and continue to fight for social and economic fairness. ______

My USSF Conversation with Immanuel Wallerstein can be read at

Check Out
YouTube Boggscenter
Detroit City of Hope -